U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Begins Title VI Civil Rights Investigation Into City of Corpus Christi Over Proposed Desalination Plant

Groups say desalination plant would disproportionately harm the historically Black Hillcrest neighborhood that has faced increased industrialization by the City


Dustin Renaud, Earthjustice, drenaud@earthjustice.org

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is investigating a complaint under the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act against the City of Corpus Christi, Texas.

According to a letter from HUD sent to Earthjustice attorneys, the federal housing agency has accepted the complaint and begun an investigation. The City of Corpus Christi has 10 days to file an answer to the complaint.

Earthjustice, on behalf of Hillcrest Residents’ Association and Citizens Alliance for Fairness and Progress, submitted a civil rights complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the City of Corpus Christi. The complaint requests that the EPA’s External Civil Rights and Compliance Office and HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity investigate whether the City of Corpus Christi is in compliance with Title VI based on the City’s decision to locate a new industrial facility — the Inner Harbor Desalination Plant — in the historically African American Hillcrest neighborhood.

HUD has 100 days to complete its investigation from the filing of the complaint on December 9, 2022.

The EPA is still completing its jurisdictional review of the filed complaint and should decide soon whether to accept the complaint.

“I am pleased that HUD decided to accept our complaint and will do an investigation,” said Pastor Adam Carrington, senior pastor of Brooks AME Worship Center and co-chair of the Citizens Alliance for Fairness and Progress. “It is a step in the right direction and prayerfully the result of the investigation will stop the City of Corpus Christi’s pursuit of building a Desalination plant in the Hillcrest community. Choosing to build a Desalination plant in the Hillcrest community further shows how the City of Corpus values sacrificing this community yet again to support industry needs. Enough is enough.”

“HUD did the right thing by initiating this Title VI Civil Rights investigation,” said Erin Gaines, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “The City of Corpus Christi has a long-standing pattern of discriminately placing industrial facilities in this historically Black neighborhood. This is the first step in ensuring justice for Hillcrest residents.”


The City and Port of Corpus Christi have proposed four locations for potential desalination plants that would enable the buildout of new petrochemical facilities in the Coastal Bend region. Freshwater is a key need to further industrial expansion of petrochemical facilities, which will lock in more climate pollution, plastic waste, and toxic chemicals that pollute nearby communities.

A new analysis conducted by Autocase Economic Advisory for the Coastal Alliance to Protect Our Environment reveals that desalination plants proposed by the City and Port of Corpus Christi are by far the costliest water supply option for the region.

Earthjustice and Perales, Allmon, and Ice, P.C. also represent the Hillcrest Residents Association in challenging the City’s Inner Harbor Desalination Plant water permit applications before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to ensure the agency’s permitting includes an environmental justice review and protects critical marine ecosystems and the regional fishing, recreational, and tourism industries in the area that would suffer from the discharge of brine from the desalination plants.

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